Two pieces of cake for $1.29. Who cares if it’s a day old? It’s still delicious.
Or, more importantly, food presentation.
Also: I realize the title should be “These Are”, and right now it reads more like a panicked curse – “Cops everywhere, man! This is cupcakes! We’re totally cupcakes!” – but I have a system to uphold.
Supposedly presentation is a big deal. I get not going out to a nice event looking like you just rolled out of bed, but that’s a personal first-impression variant where food layout is a different beast altogether, and not one requiring so much attention. And look, I’m certain a fair number of you might be reading this who are already gearing up your weather machines to unleash an internet hate-storm before hearing me out, but listen: the arrangement of food on my plate, food which is about to be decimated in my mouth before traveling through the miraculous internal pumping parts of the human system where it will then be absorbed, reimagined, and, in many cases, shoved violently out, is not priority number one. Taste is king (or queen), and in many cases, the sloppier my burger looks and the more overburdened by necessary parts hanging alluring over the sandwich-lip it appears, the more inviting the presumed taste. The attractiveness of a meal makes little lasting sense. Thanks to my wife’s innate cleverness, I now eat mashed potatoes, noodles, and corn as one compound mass of carbs, with the resulting sculpture far superior to any segregated pairings. Perhaps that too is presentation, which leads me to believe I need to compartmentalize my argument some.
At any rate, I’m deviating. I made cupcakes for work. They were good. Pretty good. Though their placement in the pan may have been less than ideal, though their Manifest Destiny encroachment on spaces outside their own gives the impression of ill-planning, I ask: does this matter? Because it’s a little rude to demean a man’s cupcakes who slaved over a cold mixing bowl for upwards of fifteen minutes out of the kindness of his own heart.
Or, more importantly, something my wife said about onions.
I don’t know why this (This) stuck with me. There are days I see something or hear something, and within seconds it’s gone. I’ll feel myself strain, literally inching my neck forward in thought as though it will somehow push the mental debris aside to help find what’s gone missing, squeezing my eyes tight to black everything else out, and still: no. Gone. So why, of all things, the wifeism she endowed me with over the phone struck me in such a way, I don’t know, but it’s been turned over now more times than it probably should have been.
“I always like to have an onion on hand.”
That’s it. Right there. Nothing groundbreaking. At least I don’t think it’s groundbreaking, though with the amount of time I’ve dedicated to it this week, perhaps it is in some strange way. I can’t even remember now the context of the genius. Was I in need of one? Was she? Was there a dish I’d hoped to prepare, only to find myself without? My kitchen skills are rudimentary at best, though I’m learning, so I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d have been put-out by not having an onion, though the possibility is there. The why is irrelevant anyhow. Only the message need remain.
So why review this? I don’t know the answer to that either. Perhaps as a means of purging it from my system. I believe it’s there now, ingrained as a splinter and unlikely to be removed anytime soon, making this effort unnecessary. But stranger things. It did, however, lead me to purchase an onion while at the store today, curious as to what wonders with it I might make. Right now, I’m at “breakfast”.
She’s right, though. Usually is, making the surprise there minimal, and having never been made to think about onions in general, I confess to taking them for granted. They’re just… there. My burger has them, and their extra flavor and crunch is perfect. Caramelized onions freak me out as a texture, though the taste is good. Not great, unless done super right. My wife introduced me to onion jam a while back, something I didn’t think could exist, because why jam onion?, and that too was pretty great. In fact: she was in the store looking for some when I was on the phone with her, making me realize I had onion jam here, realizing then I’d have no idea what to do with the stuff. I left it in the cupboard. Onions are a crunchy spice, the perfect accessory to a meal in the same way a piece of jewelry can be. Alone they’re obtrusive, vulgar, but paired properly, like The Dude’s rug, they really tie the food together.
It’s strange: as I type this, I’m making cupcakes, and the house is filled with those accompanying smells, though the more I think on the onion the more I feel I smell it too, a nose-picture which is not playing so well with the others moving around my space. Still: having an onion on hand really can take a dish from bland to bold with minimum effort (not a sentence I ever saw myself saying/writing), a feat few other vegetables can boast, I feel. In fact, that solitary idea which appears so innocuous by itself has almost pushed me toward cooking, into seeking what few recipes I can pull from my bag to add the onion to. More so, I cracked open a cookbook for the sole purpose of seeking a mixture with which to use my newly purchased onion. There’s an overboard quality to that, I’m aware, and why now having an onion suddenly seems a less-awful Pandora’s Box I can’t say, only that it does.
You may be a detractor. And that’s fine. We all have our flaws. Doesn’t make the advice, or life tip, any less relevant. I’m seeing the world anew now, one filled with the chance and deliciousness of the onion assist. I should have suspected it sooner, given how fantastic Funyuns are. If a vegetable can produce something that tasty, it must have other wonders locked deep within its layers, waiting to be discovered.
Just coffee. Plain old, good fashioned, life-giving nectar of alertness-granting, attention-fusing, tolerance-imbuing, fog-reducing coffee.
In the Spring of 2003, my wife and I went to San Francisco. We were in flight somewhere over the Rockies when the pilot came over the intercom to let us know the United States had started dropping bombs in Iraq. Again. San Francisco was lovely, and if I had the money required to make the move from Ohio to there (read: if I owned Facebook or all of Nasa, privately), I’d do so in a heartbeat (it is where Lo Pan is from, after all), though with all the protests and the people chaining themselves to trollies and the riot police with shields and horses, my wife and I never felt in danger. The whole experience still was oddly good natured. I say this in spite of the Starbucks in our hotel getting something or somethings thrown through the windows. This entire paragraph is a segue for me to say I didn’t care for coffee at the time. We’d gone there the night before, to sit near the window and people-watch/relax, and I got a hot chocolate with my wife getting a Caramel Macchiato (why I remember that, who knows) which she convinced me to try, it making my eyebrows pucker with a shiver running from the neck of my spine down. Hated it. A lot.
Not long after this, I started working for Starbucks, because that’s what you do when you hate something. They do coffee tastings once a shift, or at least they’re supposed to, where Partners will pair coffee with a certain pastry to better understand the underlying flavor profiles hidden within each roast depending on what foods you might match it with. This was always a torturous lesson for me, having to go through the four tasting steps – smell, slurp, locate, describe – without stumbling at slurp with another pucker/shudder and not recovering while maintaining the illusion of believing coffee to be God-sent. Over time, the fools made me a Supervisor, and I transferred stores. I became their opener, working a Nine Circles schedule of five-thirty in the morning for five days, requiring me to begrudgingly seek some type of potion which would allow me to perform my responsibilities without murdering everyone who came into the drive-through twenty minutes early and sat with their car running asking if we were open yet. I’ve read it takes six months for our tastes to change, so maybe that’s how long it took for me to go from Hate to Not Bad to Communion, I don’t know, but in an effort to maintain composure, I developed a love for the bean.
It was still weak at first, a brew which I would assume was ninety percent water and ten percent caffeine (and yes, I know water comprises coffee, this is an analogy I’m too lazy to better think out), over time growing to a place where those ratios would skew and my blends became more bold. I could drink one of their twenty ounce nightmares and go to bed right after – which could account for my high blood pressure – by this stage. I could look at a bean, smell a bean, and tell you what region it came from. This is what likely amounts to a religious conversion in my mind, me having started in a place of such disdain and moving into a place of near prophetic zeal as time went on. It wasn’t a zeal for Starbucks, though I absolutely loved my time there and count it as the best place I’ve had the pleasure of working, but the drink I’d snubbed for too long. Imagine how much better my life could have been had I opened my heart a year/a month/a day/an hour sooner? Rainbows. Rainbows and fairy dust.
So coffee. It’s delicious. It’s complex. It’s one of the few life experiences which warms a hidden part of me unrelated to the steam rising from the cup. To those of you drinking Maxwell house or Folgers: no. Those are the Westboro Baptist of coffees. Go to your bathrooms, and stare at yourselves in the mirror. I understand this love has become an addiction. That’s okay. We all need something to unhealthily dote over. On a sliding scale I’m inventing now for convenience sake, coffee is way less bad than cocaine or child endangerment. I’ll keep it.
Coffee. Recommended today, and every day.